CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Secretary of State Mac Warner wants to make it clear that it’s illegal in West Virginia to bet on any election.
Warner spoke with MetroNews Wednesday following FanDuel Sportsbook opening up books Tuesday night “with lottery approval” on the 2020 Presidential Election on its West Virginia platform.
“I do not know the exact facts but I can tell you it’s illegal, somebody jumped the gun, nobody should be betting on presidential elections in West Virginia or anywhere,” Warner said.
Around 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, FanDuel said in a news release that the West Virginia Lottery approved the sportsbook to offer betting on the 2020 Presidential Election including lines on Winner of 2020 Election, Democratic Nomination, Democratic Vice Presidential Nomination, the winning party, and state-by-state winning party.
“The FanDuel Sportsbook in West Virginia will be able to take online wagers immediately on political markets and eventually at the FanDuel Sportsbook inside The Greenbrier. Betting markets will only be available for national elections. Local or state elections are not permitted,” the release said.
Under state code Chapter 3-9-22 Wagering or Betting on Elections; Penalties, it is illegal to bet on elections.
“It shall be unlawful to bet or wager money or anything of value on any election held in this state,” the code states.
Around two hours after launching online at 9:30 p.m., FanDuel released another statement on why the lines were quickly taken down.
“While the markets were approved, the West Virginia Lottery has asked FanDuel to refrain from offering the markets until they have time to fully work through the implications of this new market offering.”
West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers acknowledged Wednesday evening that Gov. Jim Justice’s office had not been informed about the sports betting app launching the market and that the decision to do so was a mistake.
“I didn’t inform the Governor about it,” Myers said in a statement. “I thought it would be okay, but after review, it was clearly a mistake. We just screwed up. I didn’t have the authority to do it, it should have never happened and I apologize to everyone.”
Justice said he found out about the launch Wednesday afternoon following an interview on MetroNews ‘Talkline.’
He condemned it during his COVID-19 press briefing and said it will be addressed sternly.
“The very second I found out about it, I disapproved it because we’re not going to do that. That’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s humorous but it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Justice owns The Greenbrier Resort, where a FanDuel Sportsbook is located. The resort is the only casino, out of the five in the state, associated with FanDuel. All casinos nationwide have been shut down due to COVID-19.
The news of legal, regulated presidential election betting going live in a state for the first time caught the attention of casinos and media outlets nationwide, including ESPN, Legal Sports Report and Action Network.